“Grief does not change you, Hazel. It reveals you.”
My father just visited. He was relocated to Denver by us, his children, last October. This was his first visit here since he relocated. I have gone to visit him a couple of times, but this was his first visit back home. This time, we needed to take him directly to the airline gate, and pick him up directly at the gate. He can no longer negotiate new spaces by himself. He is not the man he had been. He is in the throes of dementia. It is very weird and sad to be with the man I have always known as my father and find him in ways the same, and in ways so different.
Gone is the quick wit; except for an occasional glimpse. Gone is the verbal sparring and manipulation he was so good at. As one of his patients said to me recently, he once had an IQ of around 180, and it is so strange to see how much of his mind is no longer there. He is now at once sentimental, emotional, moody, self pre-occupied, and oddly lost. He wakes up from a nod and wonders where he is. He goes to a room and has trouble finding his way back to where he came from. We find him staring at his image in a mirror for hours; or what looks to be staring at his image. Maybe he is just lost in space; being at once in more than one dimension. Maybe he is moving through different dimensions and we can’t reach him in his travels.
He gets easily agitated; a trait I didn’t know him to possess. Who is this man, where did his mind go, and where are his beloved words that were so elegantly on his tongue? And yet, he is here at times; a word, a memory comes back to him. I can feel his affection for me, and I love him. I at once am the little girl looking for her father’s love, and the adult child looking after him, mourning the loss of the father I had, and sometimes laughing silently at the silly and odd things he now says and does.
Laughter helps me cope. Some of the things he says are quite funny; except now they are unintentional, where before he tried to be funny. It is amazing how we can go back and forth through different emotions so quickly and fluidly. He is like a little lost boy where with what mind he has left, everything is about him. Everything was always about him and now it is more so and exaggerated. He no longer eats vegetables or salads, or even drinks water. He could eat hamburgers and french fries and onion rings every day. He also seems to have forgotten that he can’t eat sugar as he begins to eat brisket covered with barbque sauce.
We are what we think. If we think we can’t eat sugar, we can’t. If we have forgotten we can’t, we can. Our minds are amazing. They are connected to our higher self. We are such fluid beings. What is the nature of dementia and Alzheimer's? I don’t really know. I know I miss my father, am enchanted by the lost little boy, and a little awed by him and the very power and nature of our minds.
He is still here alive in this world and also he isn’t. I took him to his last beloved Cardinals baseball game where he would sit and excitedly explain to me the details of the game. I took him to see a friend maybe for the last time. I may be seeing him like this for the last time. My father is alive, and yet he is gone.
I know many of us are dealing with parents and have dealt with parents in the throes of dementia and Alzheimers. Would any of you like to share your poignant experiences? As we share, we help each other.